Lunch and Learn: Legal Services - Discharge Upgrade

Lunch and Learn: Legal Services - Discharge Upgrade

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Lunch and Learn: Discharge Upgrade

About this event

In partnership with Harvard’s Legal Services Center, we are excited to convene national experts to discuss how procedural processes to administratively discharge service members for misconduct have historically failed to recognize service-connected conditions, are inconsistently used across DoD, and contribute to significant crisis within the veteran serving community. According to a GAO study, one in five service members discharged between 2011-2015 with an other-than-honorable (OTH) designation were later revealed to have a service-connected TBI and/or PTSD, placing these veterans at higher risk for an adverse transition experience due to service-connected behavioral and mental health challenges.

Service members discharged from the military under conditions that are OTH lose access to benefits designed to meet the health and social needs of veterans transitioning back into communities. These veterans are more likely than veterans discharged with honorable conditions to be incarcerated, experience homelessness, be diagnosed with substance use disorder, and die by suicide. VA’s Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups (CHALENG) survey consistently reports that access to discharge upgrade support as a top ten unmet need of veterans experiencing homelessness.

In 2018, BWF funded the creation of the updated Discharge Upgrade Practice Manual after recognizing the poor outcomes at discharge review boards within DoD. BWF’s grantees at Harvard’s Legal Services Corporation, Connecticut Veteran Legal Center and Swords to Plowshares were supported by experts across the US to create a comprehensive guide for attorneys and veteran service officers supporting veterans through this complicated process. Prior to the creation of the manual, the nations most well-respected legal advocates had ~10% success rate at review boards. This manual serves as a resource for all advocates supporting veterans through the discharge upgrade process in DoD and character of service determination process in VA.

To apply to receive a free copy of the Discharge Upgrade Practice Manual, click here.


  • Dana Montalto, Harvard Legal Services Center
  • Millie VandenBroek, Connecticut Veteran Legal Center
  • Amy Rose, Swords to Plowshares
  • Yelena Duterte, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Law

Discussants Bios:

Dana Montalto is a Clinical Instructor and Lecturer-on-Law in the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. She represents veterans with less-than-honorable discharges in seeking military discharge upgrades and federal and state veteran benefits. Dana also founded the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership, which connects veterans who wrongfully received less-than-honorable discharges with pro bono attorneys seeking to give back to those who served. She is one of the authors and editors of the Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual, and she co-authored With Malice Toward None: Revisiting the Historical & Legal Basis for Excluding Veterans from “Veteran” Services, 122 Penn. St. L. Rev. 69 (2017). Dana is a graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Law School.

Millie VandenBroek serves as Policy Counsel and Discharge Upgrade Attorney at the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC). She advocates for legal reforms to improve access to benefits for low-income veterans and provides individual representation to veterans with unjust less-than-honorable discharges. Previously, Millie focused on representing veterans in their benefits claims before the Veterans Benefits Administration. Millie has taught in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School as a Visiting Clinical Lecturer and is one of the contributing authors of the Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual. Prior to joining CVLC, she worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Baltimore City’s Mental Health Court and as the director of an early-intervention children’s mental health initiative in the Lower Naugatuck Valley of Connecticut. Millie is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and holds a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Amy Rose is the Managing Attorney at Swords to Plowshares, a community-based non-profit that provides legal aid, housing, and social services to homeless and low-income veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to her work at Swords, Ms. Rose served as the Legal Director at the ACLU of Nevada where she fought for the civil rights and liberties of Nevadans though impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community education. Ms. Rose also spent several years practicing plaintiff-side employment law, advocating on behalf of employees facing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. She holds a J.D from the College of William & Mary and a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from the University of California, Davis. She is a member of the State Bar of Nevada.

Yelena Duterte joined University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) School of Law in 2019 as an Assistant Professor of Law and the Director of the Veterans Legal Clinic. Prior to joining UIC, Professor Duterte taught and directed the Veterans Legal Clinic at Syracuse University College of Law. In clinic practice, Professor Duterte represents veterans before the Department of Veterans Affairs and various military boards. Professor Duterte makes every effort to teach students how to practice client-centered lawyering and refine their overall lawyering skills. In the classroom, Professor Duterte strives to be patient, clear, engaging, and inclusive. Professor Duterte is a past-president and active member of the National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (NLSVCC). She received her law degree and her B.A. in Economics and Political Science from University of Illinois Chicago.

About LSC:

Harvard’s Legal Services Center was founded in 1979 with a commitment to combine education and service in the study of law.

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